Internet users “almost exclusively” do not get the booked speed

Good Internet has its price – the more a household pays, the better the service. At least that’s the theory. But in practice, expensive fixed networks are sometimes surprisingly slow – because the provider doesn’t deliver what it promises.

Fixed-network Internet is in many cases significantly worse than contractually agreed. As the Federal Network Agency announced in response to a query from the Deutsche Presse-Agentur, consumers have so far received almost 15,000 so-called measurement protocols as part of a right to reduce the price that has been in effect since December.

In the process, “almost exclusively” a reduction claim was established – in other words, the performance was so lousy that consumers were entitled to a lower payment. The protocols do not say how much the reduction is – consumers are to clarify that with their providers. Klaus Müller, head of the network agency, said he was pleased that the “breitbandmessung.de” measurement tool was being well received.

Reduction right strengthens consumers

Internet tariffs include a product information sheet in which the provider specifies the maximum, minimum and normally available data rates. There must be no “significant, continuous or regularly recurring deviation” from these specifications, according to a law.

However, the results of the measurements now show deficits from which legal claims can be derived. The most common issue is the transmission speed that is normally available. In addition, downloads are more affected than uploads.

The right of reduction, which is still quite new, strengthens the consumer’s role vis-à-vis his provider, and the necessary measurement tool has been available for use since mid-December. The desktop app “breitbandmessung.de” provides information on whether the fixed network at home complies with the specifications and whether the deviations are so severe that consumers have a right to a price reduction.

Measurement protocol with strict specifications

Similar measurements via the app of the Federal Network Agency had already taken place in previous years, they had also revealed deficiencies. However, a legal claim did not result from the older measurements – this has only been the case for about three months.

In order to obtain a measurement protocol, a total of 30 measurements on 3 different calendar days are required under the new law. There should be at least five minutes between the measurements, or at least three hours between the fifth and sixth measurement of a day. The total period for the “measurement campaign” – as the prescribed series of 30 tests is called – may not exceed two weeks. These specifications make it clear that consumers really have to be serious about checking – you can’t just get the measurement report in passing.

On the one hand, the network agency said that in the period from mid-December to the end of February, just under 15,000 measurement campaigns were completed and consumers then received a protocol. On the other hand, about three times as many campaigns had been started but not completed. Why so many consumers dropped out of a campaign before the 30th and final measurement is unclear.

Reductions possible – providers holding back so far

And how did Internet providers react to the first figures on the new right to reduce charges? A spokesperson for Deutsche Telekom said that they currently receive relatively few measurement protocols from customers. In the past two months, he said, there have been an average of ten per day. “We then always look for an accommodating solution,” he said. “If there is a claim after clarifying the cause of the measurement result, we of course grant a reduction on the monthly amount.” The contribution varies depending on the customer and the contract, he said.

Vodafone succinctly stated that “few” customers had made use of the right to a price reduction so far. “We do not publish figures on this,” said a spokesperson.

Consumer advocates saw the figures on the right to reduce as evidence of a wide gap between aspiration and reality when it comes to home Internet. About 15,000 completely carried out measurement campaigns within two and a half months are “not inconsiderable”, after all, the effort is high, said Felix Flosbach from the consumer center NRW. The number of consumers who seek information on the subject at the advice centers is rising steadily.

Policy for more dialog and transparency with providers

The consumer advocate complained that the amount of the claim was not clear – fixed-network users had to decide for themselves how much less they wanted to pay after sifting through the minutes. The telecommunications providers then often offered only a small discount and did not explain how they arrived at the amount, he said. “More transparency from providers would be helpful,” Flosbach said.

In fact, the situation for consumers could soon improve. Because Federal Network Agency President Müller said his authority was “in the interest of customers in dialogue with the industry to achieve simplified compensation models.”

The digital policy spokesman for the Green Party in the Bundestag, Maik Außendorf, expects usage figures to rise at “breitbandmessung.de” as this tool gains in popularity. As evidenced by the vast majority of the roughly 15,000 measurement protocols issued, users are “paying for bandwidth that they ultimately do not receive,” the politician said. “This is unacceptable and shows that this instrument to protect consumers was long overdue.”